madda_gaska gave me this book to read. I did enjoy it. I first got interested in China by watching kung fu movies and realising that I was too old and out of shape to try and learn kung fu I decided to study the history and language instead! This book gives a brief outline of all the important parts of Shaolin kung fu, it includes a history of martial arts in China, different patterns and exercises, tactics, weapons Buddhism and mediation. The author stressed the practical aspects of Shaolin kung fun, how it wasn't a demonstration or a dance but actually for fighting. And despite giving descriptions of how to do different sets, he did say it was impossible to learn without a good teacher. Even though the book had no Chinese character the author used mainly pinyin transliterations and took time to express the different meanings and good and bad translations of different Chinese words and concepts.
One thing that struck me as particularly interesting was the inner kung fu, or qi gong was actually developed by a Taoist priest during the Song dynasty. This was when internal alchemy really developed and it seemed to make a great deal of sense that it was also developed into martial arts at this time. It was also interesting to read about much more modern Buddhist beliefs and see how different things are emphasised over time, "sudden enlightenment" is also now a very long process, and the anti-intellectual side seems to have been de-emphasised, and oddly he made no reference to desire or suffering, but emphasised the different heavens and ideas of modern physics.
It was a very enjoyable book. Coming home on the tube on Friday I was reading it and got into a rather fun conversation with a middle aged chav, where we sat and discussed Kung fu films. (He was a big Bruce Lee fan, whereas I told him I preferred Jet Li). I don't think I'll ever learn Kung fu, I'm afraid I would be a bad knight, I am just too interested in drinking and sleeping with other people's wives......Continua